Darwinism and Language

  • Fred D’Agostino
Part of the Australasian Studies in History and Philosophy of Science book series (AUST, volume 2)


Interaction between Darwinian accounts of organic evolution and the scientific study of language has crystallized in two important episodes in the history of ideas. The first of these episodes occurred during Darwin’s own lifetime, while the second is associated with Chomsky’s recent speculations about the nature of human language. Each of these episodes is of independent interest, since, in each case, it has been alleged that facts about human language pose a prima facie difficulty for evolutionary theory. But these episodes are perhaps of even greater interest for what they jointly reveal about the origin and continuing influence of a common misinterpretation of Darwinian theory. Although I will treat these two episodes separately, I will also try to reveal their conceptual similarities and connections.


Continuity Theorist Human Language Communicative Capacity Darwinian Theory Theoretical Premise 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Appleman, P., Darwin: A Critical Anthology (New York, 1970 ).Google Scholar
  2. Butler, S., Essays on Lije, Art, and Science ed. R. A. Streatfeild (London, 1904 ).Google Scholar
  3. Chomsky, N. Language and Mind (New York, 1972 ).Google Scholar
  4. Chomsky, N., Reflections on Language (London, 1976 ).Google Scholar
  5. Darwin, C., The Origin of Species (London, 1872, 6th edn).Google Scholar
  6. Darwin, C., The Descent of Man (London, 1883, 2nd edn).Google Scholar
  7. Darwin, C.,The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man (New York, 1949).Google Scholar
  8. Hull, D., Darwin and His Critics ( Cambridge, Mass., 1973 ).Google Scholar
  9. Jolly, A., The Evolution of Primate Behavior (New York, 1972).Google Scholar
  10. Lieberman, P., ‘The Phylogeny of Language’, in: How Animals Communicate ed. T, Sebeok (Bloomington, 1977 ).Google Scholar
  11. Mueller, M., The Science of Thought (London, 1887 ).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Romanes, G. J., Mental Evolution in Man (London, 1888 ).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Savage, S. and Rumbaugh, D., ‘Communication, Language, and Lana’, in: Language Learning by a Chimpanzee ed. D. Rumbaugh (New York, 1977 ).Google Scholar
  14. Stam, J.,Inquiries into the Origin of Language(New York, 1976).Google Scholar
  15. Whitney, W. D., The Life and Growth of Language, 4th edn. (London, 1883 ).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fred D’Agostino
    • 1
  1. 1.The Australian National UniversityAustralia

Personalised recommendations